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Beijing, We have a Problem: A Letter from Jade Rabbit

Ground Control to Major Rabbit

01·27·2014

Beijing, We have a Problem: A Letter from Jade Rabbit

Ground Control to Major Rabbit

01·27·2014

In December, China became the first nation to land a spacecraft on the moon since the Soviet Union’s Luna 9 made a successful landing 47 years ago. But, it turns out the Year of the Horse might not be so lucky for China’s lunar rover Yùtù  (玉兔, Jade Rabbit), which successfully separated itself from its launcher, Chang’e-3 (嫦娥三号, Goddess of the Moon 3) on December 14 last year. Unfortunately, after a few weeks “hopping” around, the Jade Rabbit might be having a few health issues.

The robotic spacecraft has been experiencing  “mechanical control abnormality” due to the moon’s complex surface environment.  The abnormality occurred on Saturday, said China’s State Administration of Science, Technology, and Industry for National Defense.

It might sound like a racy Penthouse column but Jade Rabbit’s Dairy is a blog published by State-media outlet, Xinhua, which gives the public updates on Jade Rabbit’s exploits in a first-person narrative. The last update gave the reasons for the rover difficulties, and tells a tale of hope for China’s future space endeavors:

“This is me and Chang’e-3’s successful launch, returning many counts and estimations, we finally accomplished our masters’ goal. Originally I thought I could wander here on the Moon for three months, giving everyone stories of the many big stones that I would find, the secrets of lunar soil ground, to tell you about the adventure of me and Chang’e-3… but if this first trip has to come to an early termination, I’m not going to be scared. Regardless if I can be repaired or not, I believe that my failure can give a lot of valuable information and experience to my masters…

…Now the sun has just set down, the temperature dropped so fast. Today I’ve been talking too much, but I still feel like it’s not enough. I’ll tell you a secret, in fact, I do not feel particularly sad. I’m the actor of my own story, and like others, I also encountered a little problem.

Goodnight, Earth. Good night, humans.”

A touching tale, no doubt. This particular robot reminds us how everything can have its own story, hopes and dreams. The Jade Rabbit is a symbol of China’s space dreams and wider aspirations. We sure hope that the Jade Rabbit can continue to hop around the moon in the forseeable future.

Updates:

On January 25 Jade Rabbit officially entered its indefinite hibernation period marked by its last dramatic blog post, that contains a goodbye letter to Earth and the humankind, with his last words, “Good Night Earth.” The blog was never updated anymore ever since.

few weeks after pronounced hibernated, on February 13, Jade Rabbit unexpectedly “woke up” from his sleep, by updating his Weibo blog with status “Hey, anyone there?”, Chinese netizens responded the revival of Jade Rabbit with great  joy by sending supportive comments on his Weibo page.